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Customs warns against email scam

Customs officials are warning against a new email phishing scam asking recipients to provide their online banking details. The email message lures unsuspecting victims by informing them that Finnish Customs is holding a package for delivery.

Tullin nimikyltti ja tuotemerkki talon seinässä.
Image: Petri Kuikka / Yle

The fraudulent email reportedly informs the recipient that a package has arrived for them and requires customs clearance. It then urges them to take care of the matter at the Helsinki-Vantaa airport customs unit and provides the option of processing the clearance online by sending their online banking login details in a return email.

According to customs communications chief Mika Parkkonen at least six individuals have fallen victim to the scam by emailing their online banking details, which the fraudsters have then used to secure short-term loans in the victims’ names.

Customs officials say that tens of thousands of the scam emails have been sent out since the beginning of March. So far Customs are aware of 50 cases in which recipients have divulged their online banking information.

Customs became of aware of the use of the banking information to secure credit last weekend. So far the extent of the victims’ financial losses is not yet known.

Authentic-looking messages

Parkkonen said that the phishing emails appear to be authentic and are written in good Finnish, with the sender’s email address appearing to be the airport customs unit.

Parkkonen said that Customs officials are concerned about the degree to which the fraudsters appear to be familiar with customs operating procedures. However he did not believe that the sender of the emails is a Customs insider.

Officials say that the phishing emails have been sent from servers located in the Baltics, including Lithuania. So far the cybersecurity centre has shut down 15 sites from which the fraudulent messages have been sent.

"There must be tens of thousands of phishing messages. Some messages will reach people who have ordered products from abroad and know that at some stage they will need customs clearance. In this kind of scenario mistakes can be made," Parkkonen explained.

He stressed that Customs will never ask customers to provide their banking information via email and that they are needed only to log in to the online service. He added that the postal and delivery services company Itella had also been the target of a similar swindle.

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